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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07SINGAPORE2052 2007-11-16 01:23:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Singapore
Cable title:  

ASEAN SUMMITS: KEEP YOUR EXPECTATIONS LOW

Tags:   PGOV PREL PHUM SN BU ASEAN 
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4415
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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0117
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SINGAPORE 002052 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/15/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM SN BU ASEAN
SUBJECT: ASEAN SUMMITS: KEEP YOUR EXPECTATIONS LOW

Classified By: Classified by CDA Daniel Shields, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d
).



1. (C) Summary: Singapore-based ASEAN watchers predicted a
disappointed public reaction to the ASEAN Summit to be held
here November 18-21. Government sources and a leaked draft
indicate that the new ASEAN Charter will not include
significant compliance or disciplinary measures as many had
hoped and will not specify what human rights standards ASEAN
will apply. ASEAN is pushing responsibility for dealing with
Burma to the United Nations, so the concept of regional
problems being solved by regional actors has "taken a
beating," a senior researcher said. Still, the Charter and
other changes ASEAN plans to undertake could be quite
meaningful over the longer term, the ASEAN watchers said.
Former ASEAN Secretary General Severino said the new Charter
is a tool whose usefulness will be determined by the strength
of its implementation. The ASEAN Secretariat, despite taking
on added responsibilities under the Charter, will continue to
be hamstrung by limited resources, meaning that real power
will remain with the political leaders, the analysts
indicated. End Summary.



2. (SBU) The Charge hosted a lunch on November 14 to solicit
the views of Singapore-based think tank researchers on the
ASEAN and ASEAN-related summits that Singapore will host in
the period around November 18-21. The academics included
Rodolfo Severino, Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute
of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) and former Secretary
General of ASEAN, Ralf Emmers, Head of Graduate Studies at
the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS),
Sheng Lijun, Senior Fellow at ISEAS, Yang Razali Kassim,
Senior Research Fellow at RSIS, and Zhao Hong, Visiting
Research Fellow at the East Asian Institute (EAI).

ASEAN Charter


--------------------------





3. (C) The main attraction of the ASEAN Summit will be the
long anticipated signing of ASEAN's Charter, which will give
the organization a greater institutional basis. However,
Emmers predicted that many outside observers and the media
will react with disappointment to the Charter for failing to
do more. Government sources and a leaked draft (text
available at ht
tp://multimedia.prachatai.com-doc-2007-asean- charter.pdf.url
) indicate that the Charter will not include significant
compliance or disciplinary measures as many had hoped and
will not specify what human rights standards ASEAN will
apply. Emmers said the Charter should be seen as a
consolidation move by ASEAN, codifying certain practices that
have already been observed in the organization. Emmers,
Severino and Yang Razali Kassim agreed adoption of the
Charter would turn out over the long term to be a significant
development for ASEAN. Ten years ago, ASEAN would not have
considered including provisions on democracy and human
rights, for example, and such provisions in the future will
serve as benchmarks for expected behavior. The Charter is an
important tool for ASEAN to promote integration, noted
Severino. It will not have a short-term impact, however, and
expectations should be modest. Its significance will only be
felt in the long term as the group puts the principles behind
the Charter into practice and starts to implement it.

Burma


--------------------------





4. (C) Emmers predicted that ASEAN will seek to shift the
main discussion of Burma to the East Asia Summit, because the
EAS brings in the two countries (China and India) that ASEAN
believes have the most influence over the Burmese regime. In
any case, ASEAN has, and believes itself to have, limited
options and leverage over the junta, he said. ASEAN is
pushing responsibility for dealing with Burma to the United
Nations, so the concept of regional problems being solved by
regional actors has "taken a beating," added Emmers.

Limited Role for ASEAN Secretariat


--------------------------





5. (C) Contrasting ASEAN with the European Union, Emmers
noted that ASEAN technocrats have been forced to play a

SINGAPORE 00002052 002 OF 002


limited role while political leaders guard their
decision-making power. Severino said his greatest
disappointment in connection with preparations for the Summit
was over the failure to provide greater resources to the
ASEAN Secretariat, despite the Charter's mandate to
strengthen it. The Secretariat's staff and budget are too
small for it to undertake any independent action, he said.
ASEAN will keep its existing practice of setting equal
contributions for the Secretariat budget by all members,
which means the budget depends on "what Laos is willing to
pay," said Severino. He lamented that when he was ASEAN
Secretary General he lacked the resources to even carry out

SIPDIS
any independent research and had to rely on contributions
from ASEAN dialogue partners.

Lack of Dominant Leaders


--------------------------





6. (C) ASEAN's national leaders lack the degree of
camaraderie they enjoyed before the 1997-98 financial crisis,
commented RSIS Senior Research Fellow Yang Razali Kassim. In
part, this was due to a greater degree of turnover in the
leaders. Emmers added that the rise of democratic politics,
especially in Indonesia, made foreign policy making more
complex and leaders had to take into account the demands and
interests of parliaments. It was unlikely President
Yudhoyono would be able to restore the historic ASEAN
leadership role Indonesia enjoyed under Suharto both because
of the pressures of domestic politics and the fact that he
will not likely be on the scene as long. It will take the
concerted cooperation of the more developed ASEAN members
(Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand) to drive
integration and other initiatives, commented Yang Razali.
The researchers agreed there is a gap between the original
and newer ASEANs in their readiness to integrate. However,
Emmers observed that Vietnam is increasingly occupying a
middle ground between the newer and the more developed
members of ASEAN. Its rapid economic development,
acculturation to ASEAN norms, and increasingly astute
diplomacy have set it apart from the newer and lesser
developed ASEAN members, he added.

"Leader" by Default


--------------------------





7. (C) The researchers noted that in spite of the slow pace
of ASEAN integration, the grouping had been relatively
successful in driving the process of regional institution
building, including the East Asia Summit and the various
ASEAN-dialogue partner summits. However, Severino admitted
that this is more by default than by design. Historical
mistrust between the major regional powers (i.e. China and
Japan) has left ASEAN as the nominal leader. Sheng observed
that while the EU had managed to bridge internal differences
but had limited impact around its periphery, ASEAN was less
cohesive internally but still exerted relatively greater
influence on its neighbors.

Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm
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